When you find yourself craving a little something special in your glass to enjoy alongside your favorite chocolate, or slice of whatever decadence you are digging your fork into, what’s your go-to? Might I suggest something? Jerez.
Synonymous with Sherry, this fortified wine from the region of Andalucía in Spain, might just be one of the long-lost and almost forgotten wines many of us should experience.
There are a variety of Jerez styles from Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado and Oloroso, but they all share a similar elaboration needed for the final, delicious result. Fortification. After the Palomino, Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel grapes have finished fermentation into a still wine, an additional wine spirit is added, which contains more sugar with the potential to ferment and create additional alcohol.
An average yeast does not have the capacity to ferment more sugar with an already high alcohol content that exists in the wine. However, because of the location along the Atlantic, in southern Spain, the Andalucía region is blessed with a wild yeast, called Flor. This is the native yeast which is able to further ferment the added sugar from the wine spirit which has been added. The process after, which is more complicated, results is something unique, only found in a single location worldwide.
Jerez can range from dry wines to enjoy with lamb with a compote or chutney or an after dinner cheese, toasted nuts and dried fruit platter. Sweeter versions can be enjoyed as a slow sipper on a chilly night or as a great pairing with your favorite slice of chocolate cake or ice cream. Here are a few you might enjoy.
Pedro Romero NV Prestige 50 Palo Cortado Viejísimo, $125
A complex wine with layers which open up as it develops on your palate. Very nutty with notes of rich honey. It is bold, as would be expected, yet with palate-cleansing acids and a finish of toffee, toasted almonds and a peach tart.
Osborne NV Rare Sherry Pedro Ximénez Viejo, $120
If you are familiar with nuttier Sherry, this is a nice change of pace with a syrupy offering of chocolate fudge, raisins and espresso. Try this with tiramisu.
Bodegas Dios Baco S.L. NV 20 Yr. Baco Imperial Amontillado Palomino, $90
There were only 300 cases of this made. If you’re a beginner, here is your first Sherry. Candied nuts, and pecan pie hit your nose with a touch of peaches. It is easy on the palate and very approachable. The flavors round out like salted peanuts and dried stonefruit.
Pedro Romero NV Prestige 50 Amontillado Viejísimo, $120
This will be the drier side of Jerez, so make sure you have some food paired with this one. It is very aromatic with walnuts and praline. The acidity will knock you back but finishes with tart fruits and toffee. It might be an acquired taste for some of you, but give it a try with that lamb and chutney dish I suggested earlier.
Williams & Humbert NV Jalifa Rare Old Dry Amontillado Aged 30 Years, $70
Another dry Sherry, but perhaps a little richer than the previously mentioned. The aromas are full, yet soft with almonds and cinnamon. It has some weight on the palate but the acidity keeps the flavors of more almond, toffee and warm Christmas spices lively. A great wine for a platter of warm Brie drizzled with honey, dried fruits and candied pecans.
González Byass NV Del Duque Amontillado Viejo-375 ml, $49
Another one not to enjoy without food. It is very masculine with a bit more alcohol than normal at 21.5%, yet it is very enjoyable in its boldness, with aromas and flavors of toasted hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecan pie. Break out the small tub of pralines and cream that you have tucked away in your freezer or your favorite milk chocolate bar.
Lustau NV Almacenista Palo Cortado de Jerez, $45
This Sherry is rounded out in both nuttiness and rich fruit. It is characteristic of Palo Cortado with dried-roasted peanuts, toffee, with hints of stonefruit, quince and dried orange peel. The acids are mellow and it has a smooth finish. If you have a good roasted chicken chutney recipe, pair the two together.
González Byass NV Matusalem Oloroso Dulce Viejo-375 ml, $45
This Dulce is complex on the nose with layers; dried berries, raisins, roasted fruits, berry pie. There is a hint of saltiness, characteristic from its Atlantic location. On the palate, expect some chocolate-covered nuts or chocolate mousse. Great solo, but maybe try it with vanilla ice cream with a butterscotch sauce.